Bruce Erickson had zero experience with newborn babies when he agreed to see if it was a good volunteering fit at Memorial Hospital. The electrical engineer was nervous but instantly hooked. “They put a baby in your arms, and you can see the baby relax, and see their heart rate go down,” Erickson says. “You can see the baby’s breathing regulate and relax a little bit and see their oxygen saturation percentage go up—just because they’re being held by another human. It’s really remarkable.”
That was in 1995. Now, thousands of volunteer hours later, Erickson is known as the Baby Whisperer and the anchor of the baby-cuddling program, which has shifted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Springs. Volunteers like Erickson support nursing staff and parents by providing comfort and human contact to sick and premature newborns. Erickson also schedules and trains a team of about 50 volunteers.
“[ Bruce Erickson ] has been singularly responsible for expanding our cuddler program, helping train and leading the charge to supporting babies who were exposed to opioids in utero,” says Dr. Susan Townsend, neonatologist at Children’s. “His dedication to our patients, cuddler team and program of care has been exemplary and responsible for a lot of our success, which has been recognized at the national level as a model for excellent care.”
“Bruce is compassionate, compliant, and committed,” says Brenda McCants, manager of volunteer services. “Without him, this program would not be possible.”
“I don’t know how many parents have expressed their happiness that somebody is holding their baby when they can’t be there,” Erickson says. “That’s a real good feeling to know you can serve so many people by just doing this one simple very human thing.”
Read about more Healthcare Heroes here.